What About Us?

9th Dec 2017

'We are searchlights, we can see in the dark

We are rockets, pointed up at the stars 

We are billions of beautiful hearts 

And you sold us down the river too far' 

Lyrics from 'What About Us' by Pink


I'm a big fan of the musician Pink.  She’s a talented song writer and performer who is also a vocal campaigner about things she cares passionately about.  She has openly used her visibility to highlight difficult issues and never shied away from airing her views via her involvement in protest marches, her social media posts or her music.  Her 2006 song ‘Dear Mr President’, for example, criticised George W.Bush for the Iraq war and other social issues and she has made it clear that her recent track ‘What About Us?’ was written as a protest song against the Trump administration.  

The lyrics of the song speak volumes about her feelings of frustration and abandonment and I'm sure a lot of people will empathise with her message. “What about us?” she sings, “What about all the times you said you had the answers?  We are certainly not in a unique time as throughout history there’s been times of conflict and perceived broken trust.  Times when questions were asked and answers weren't forthcoming.

If you are old enough to remember the world wars, the Cuban missile crisis, Watergate, Vietnam, the Falklands war, the miners strikes or Iraq wars as just a few examples - you’ll know that human  history is littered with trauma.  However, even the youngest reader of this blog, who may not remember any of these, will be aware of the last couple of years.  A time I imagine we will all reflect on, in years to come, as one of our most turbulent.  

Regardless of whether you are a remainer or leaver, Brexit is proving to be no easy ride for us all.  Further afield we have world leaders slugging it out over North Korea or Israel, sexual misconduct claims flaring up all the way from the entertainment industry to Parliament, a Prime Minister making deals to stay in power and a public service infrastructure suffering from under investment.  As Pink sings, many of these problems fall to people that claimed to have the answers and yet, in the cold light of day, seem to be falling short or sometimes seem obsessed with self interest. 

Most of us, apart from the occasional times we get chance to share our opinions through a referendum, election or the rant of a blog post (!), are merely spectators to this weird show - a show I'd find quite amusing if it didn't have such monumental significance for us all. This is definitely a show I would very happily miss. 

And yet, while we have such limited control in the big picture, many of still have control in our personal bubble and for everyone at Peak Mountaineering, just like many of our followers or blog readers, we seek some of that control in the natural environment.  

While the big picture politicians feud I'm away to a mountain, a ski slope, bike trail or rock face.  The famous environmentalist John Muir proclaimed that the ‘mountains are calling and I must go’ - never was there a better time to find peace and solace in our wilderness areas.  The mountains are an escape and a form of therapy for many billions of people worldwide.

Fortunately, all over the world we have stunning countryside that is open to adventure and exploration and even politicians have recognised the importance of preserving some of these through legal protections that limit development, allow access rights and often offer some protections to the people that live there. 

In the U.K. it is through our national parks system and AONB (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) designations and many countries have similar.  Of course, the journey to convincing the politicians of the importance of these protections hasn't always been easy and I explored some of the catalysts for the creation of our national parks in my recent blog post about the Kinder Mass Trespass here.

America is a country I love dearly and I've loved exploring some of the most stunning countryside in the world during several visits there.  The variety and beauty are second to none.  America has protections in place for many key wilderness areas, but a dark cloud loomed on the horizon this week.

Donald Trump took the opportunity, during a visit to Salt Lake City earlier this week, to issue proclamations that will massively scale back the national monument designation for two key areas.  Grand Staircase - Escalante (designated a national monument by Clinton in 1996) and the Bears Ears monument in Utah (designated by outgoing president Obama in 2016).  In the former case this will shrink protected land from 1.7 million areas to 1.0 millions, but Bears Ears and surrounding protected land will fair far worse with shrinkage from 1.35 million acres to only 200,000.   Bears Ears also contains areas of cultural significance to 5 native American Tribes.

These proclamations simply reduce the size as described, but the longer term concern is the future uses this unprotected land could then attract.  This may include mining, cattle grazing and other development.  It also calls into question how land use change may affect bird species, other wildlife and rare archeological sites that exist there.  Understandably, the Native American tribes are also unsure how their ancient ceremonial lands will fare.

Maybe it follows Trump’s drive to develop business opportunities, but it also seems to threaten limited natural resources that many hold dear.  The Bears Ears monument, as an example, includes the world famous Indian Creek climbing area and outdoor recreation is America’s 4th largest industry.  After Trump’s announcement, several key groups have come together to announce plans to take the case to court.  The action is based on whether Trump actually has the legal power to take this action.  

The group of interested parties include the Native American groups and also includes outdoor brand Patagonia. I'm not sure whether a commercial business has taken such an action against a President before, but it is ultimately another example of Patagonia’s commitment to environmental activism and is great to know such a company is willing to put itself in the firing land.  They have already taken a pounding for it by US government organisations (I explore this in my piece ‘Picking on Patagonia’ here), but I am sure they will stand strong.

Please consider supporting Patagonia either by buying their products, making a contribution or at least by shouting your support for their action.  Maybe collectively this can be made too hot to handle and Trump has been known to U turn on several previous plans.  We are billions of beautiful hearts.

Posted by Paul

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